PN Interviews Waasnode Short Fiction Prize Judge Anne Valente
This year's Waasnode Short Fiction Prize will be selected by Anne Valente, author of the novels Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down (William Morrow/HarperCollins) and Utah (William Morrow), as well as a short story collection By Light We Knew Our Names (Dzanc) and a fiction chapbook, An Elegy for Mathematics (Bull City Press). She spoke to Associate Editor Jacob Hall to discuss what makes short stories tick.
Jacob Hall: What excites you about fiction as a genre?
Anne Valente: The imaginative possibilities, and the wide range of voices, ideas, and inventions the genre makes feasible. There is so much going on in fiction right now, and I try to read three or four books a week just to keep up. I love that fiction allows the reader to enter someone else’s brain and imagination and experience with them the world that they’ve seen and created. Reading fiction feels like lucid dreaming with someone else, as does writing fiction---building out that lucid dream to share with others.
JH: What makes an individual short story great to you? What do you look for?
AV: Invention and imagination make short stories great for me, and that’s often what I look for, but this doesn’t necessarily mean a high-wire act of building out fantastical plots or worlds. I’ve seen inventiveness in the narration of a character just sitting in a chair observing a party around them. I think what makes any short story great is attention to language---to sentences, to syntax and diction, to how the characters and interiority and setting and narration are being set down on the page---and also to an overarching sense of momentum. Often great short stories capture the reader from the opening paragraph and don’t let go until the final sentence.
JH: What else should we know about you? What are you reading right now?
AV: You should know I’m such a huge fan of Passages North! The journal has consistently published inspired, challenging and innovative work, and I’ve been an admirer since I first began writing fiction. In terms of what I’m reading right now, I just read Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor and Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists and absolutely loved both. I’m also in the middle of Leni Zumas’s Red Clocks right now and can’t put it down. It’s gorgeously written and structured, and so compelling and haunting.